MALA BEADS 101 - Ultimate Guide to Mala Beads
Mala beads exude a great deal of fascination with their earthly beauty and spiritual significance. Each mala is unique in its design and spiritual importance and the tradition of malas has emerged from a rich history of the Tibetan culture.
In this article, we will introduce you to the fascinating history of malas and how they came to be so popularly synonymous with Buddhist traditions and meditative practices. You will also learn about different mala beads and their importance, plus a bit about jewelry inspired from mala beads like mala bracelets and mala necklaces.
The History of Malas
What Does “Mala” Mean? - The word Mala originates from Sanskrit and it refers to prayer beads that are used for repetitive mantras and chants. In Sanskrit, the word “mala” literally means “garland”. These exquisite malas originate from the Tibetan Buddhist communities of the Himalaya, which have now travelled wide and far across the world. For the Buddhist monks, malas are an essential part of their wardrobe, dangling from between the fingers, wrapped intricately around the wrist or counting the beads along with the musical recitations of Buddhist chants and mantras.
Mala Beads & Their Rich Tibetan History - Repetition of mantras and chants is a common ritual amongst the Tibetan Buddhist monks, and these malas and rosary-like beads are very useful in practicing mantras over hundreds of thousands of times. They are used like a spiritual abacus that allows one to keep track of prayers without actively counting all the mantras. It is considered a powerful tool to sharpen the focus of the mind and spread waves of calmness throughout the body.
Mala Beads & Their History in India - Thousands of years ago, around the 8th century B.C.E, mala beads were a vital spiritual and meditative tool of the ancient seers of India, and they would use these prayer beads, termed as japa malas, to enhance their meditative and spiritual energy.
Mala Beads & Their History with Hinduism, Catholicism, and Buddhism - Most major religions including Hinduism, Catholicism, and Buddhism & more than two-thirds of the world have a history of using prayer beads, worry beads and rosary beads to support their spiritual ascension.
Devout Catholics use their rosary beads to praise and pray to Mother Mary, while Indian gurus, yogis and faith healers use the japa mala to pray, give blessings and meditate. Much like a garland of flowers where the word gets its name, a mala is made out of 108 beads that all signify our spiritual essence with repetition to hold this positive energy and dispel it all over our being.
Japa Malas & the Roman Empire - Back when the Roman Empire began trading with the Indians, they misunderstood the meaning of japa for jap, which is the Latin word for rose. So, when these mala japas reached the city of Rome, they were given the name of rosarium, which means rosary.
In modern day, we see yogis, faith healers and all seekers of spiritual energy use these mala beads to gain spiritual ascendance, along with carving out inner peace, relaxation, confidence and self-love amongst others. For most spiritual seekers, the simple act of wearing mala beads helps them stay connected to their meditative state, avoid distractions, limit fidgeting and gain inner peace. Moreover, wearing a mala allows an individual to form a close connection with their spiritual self, which is why a mala can be hung or worn anywhere to help you stay spiritually connected and positive with a strong aura of protection.
Historical Mala Bead Materials - The traditional malas were intricately crafted with organic materials, such as animal bones, exotic wood, plant seeds, and other materials which were rounded and hand carved to shape them into perfectly rounded beads. Rudraksha and Bodhi seeds are an example of traditional mala beads.
Tibetan Mala Bead Materials - In Tibetan culture, mala beads are hand carved from bones, which is symbolic of the evolution of life, and equates the need for empathy and love in our world. Mala beads are also carved from the tagua nut and wood, and these are symbolic of a spiritual connection with the earth and a grounding energy that promotes greater mindfulness and focus during meditation.
Precious & Semi Precious Mala Beads - Malas are also carved out with a great many precious and semi-precious gemstones that are known for having poignant healing powers. For instance, the blue lapis stone radiates calmness, while rose quartz radiates compassion and love, and amethyst encourages mental and emotional clarity. Similarly, malas are also created with shells, metals and various other materials, and in some traditions, the mala beads are inscribed and even painted with special mantras and ancient symbols.
Every single mala is unique and exclusive in its healing and spiritual benefits because of the unique natural qualities of their materials, beads and stones.
The Anatomy of a Mala
Japa Mala Beads - The most popular and widely used kind of mala is the one with a string of 108 beads that are intricately carved with various materials, including wood, semi-precious and precious stones, bones, or even seeds. Every single time you use this mala to practice a mantra or spiritual chanting, this bead allows you to make 100 repetitions. The 8 beads are added to make up for any mistakes in counting or reciting the mantra.
Guru Bead or Head Bead - The most fascinating bead of all, the head bead, referred to as the ‘Guru bead’, tends to bigger than all the other beads. The guru bead has a special significance and it is symbolic of the sacred relationship of a student with their “guru”, the teacher. The Guru bead is the starting point of the mala, and it is never counted amongst the other bead. When you reach the Guru bead, you must turn around and change your direction of rotating the beads during your meditation practice to avoid stepping over your teacher.
Counter Beads - A large mala might also have counter beads, which are added to divide the mala into 4 equal sections, each consisting of 27 beads. You can also get malas with a wide variety of lengths, including 21, 27 and 54 beads, while mala bracelets tend to have at least 18 beads. Some malas are created with stretchy materials and elastic cords so you can easily wrap them around your wrist and wear them like a bracelet. Other full-length malas can be worn as necklaces, but not all designs are to be flaunted as ornaments because of their spiritual significance.
The Art of Meditating with Malas
According to the norms of Tibetan culture, there are no hard and fast rules regarding the malas and how you choose to recite your mantras. Everyone has their own method of unlocking their spiritual chakras, and the most effective ways are those that are attuned with your intentions and prayer attitudes. Praying from the heart is all that truly matters.
However, some experts believe that it is best to use the right hand because the Tibetan monks always hold the mala in their right hands. However, when you are holding a prayer wheel with your right hand, it is common to use the left hand to hold the mala.
It is generally recommended to begin by using the mala from the first bead after the Guru bead, and reciting the mantra while counting the beads between the thumb and the index finger. You can recite the mantra loudly or quietly, whichever method appeals more to your practice. Keep moving on to the next bead with every repetition as you roll the beads with your thumb. When you reach the guru bead after completing the circle, you will have completed reciting the mantra 100 times. Use the extra 8 beads if you’ve made an error while counting or lose your focus during your meditation.
The Meaning Behind the Colors of Mala Beads & Stones
Mala beads are a powerful and beneficial tool for meditation and healing, and in order to pick out the best stone to heal your emotional turmoil, it is important to understand the deeper meaning of each stone. By understanding the meaning and significance of a stone, you can understand how it can help you through your journey of spiritual awakening and healing.
We’ve compiled an extensive list of some of the most powerful healing stones and the deeper meanings associated with their colors.
Red Mala Beads
- Red Jasper
These are grounding and rejuvenating mala beads that promote greater mental clarity and creativity by allowing you to organize your thoughts. They also promote healing and emotional stability.
- Red Tiger Eye
A powerful stone, the red tiger eye motivates and instills a powerful surge of confidence, along with increasing the sex drive. It’s a protective stone for all those who seek to accomplish their goals with fierce determination.
This is a remarkably intense stone for boosting self-confidence and courage, and eliminating all kinds of fears and inhibitions. It instills love and boosts the sex drive along with energizing the mind and cleansing the soul.
Pink Mala Beads
A stone that symbolizes love, harmony, peace and the purity of truth, Rose Quartz helps eliminate negativity and promotes relationships, friendship and self-love by opening up the heart.
Rhodonite is a powerful stone that stimulates the heart chakra to encourage emotional healing and promoting self-love, forgiveness and confidence.
A grounding and balancing stone that promotes spiritual great and serves as a motivating symbol for initiating new life changes, Unakite also helps in letting go of a traumatic past. These beautiful stones help in letting go of anger, trauma and pain.
Orange Mala Beads
Carnelian is an intense stone to encourage vitality and creativity as it promotes positive choices and enhances concentration. It also increases sexuality and fertility by instilling a strong surge of passion, love and compassion.
A healing stone that is popular for its healing and stress-busting benefits, Amber instills passion and pleasure, along with the love of happiness and brings good luck.
An energetic stone that is perfect for those who are focused on achieving their goals, Goldstone is for those who seek peace and serenity to balance their emotional health.
Yellow Mala Beads
An energetic bead that invites prosperity and professional success by uplifting mental health and promoting focus, Citrine works on the solar plexus chakra to balance emotions and counters negative energy.
- Yellow Malay Jade
Yellow Malay Jade balances emotions and promotes wisdom and perspective by aiding with learning and grasping new information.
- Honey Calcite
Honey Calcite is an energetic stone that makes it easier to overcome challenges associated with life changes by instilling confidence and strength. It balances the crown chakra and promotes healing in those struggling with depression.
Green Mala Beads
- Green Aventurine
A stone of compassion, comfort, healing and calmness, Green Aventurine is an excellent meditation bead for leaders and motivators.
- Moss Agate
For centuries, Moss Agate beads have been used by midwives to reduce pain and make deliveries easy for the mother. It also promotes personal growth and inner strength along with balancing emotions.
- Green Jade
A soothing stone that fights of negativity and inspires creativity, ideas and stimulating dreams, Green Jade influences the heart chakra and invites good luck.
A stone that symbolizes emotional health, confidence, balance and creativity, Malachite is effective for fighting off negativity, letting go of bad habits and healing the soul.
Blue Mala Beads
A great stone for fighting off fears and promoting creativity, Aventurine aids in improving communication.
- Blue Tiger Eye
Highly effective at stress-busting, the Blue Tiger Eye stone offers motivation and perceptiveness in times of turmoil or while struggling with commitment issues.
- Indian Bloodstone
Indian Bloodstone is a healing stone that offers protection against negative energy and evil.
- Lapis Lazuli
Lapis Lazuli balances the throat chakra to create a powerful sense of self-awareness, self-expression and creativity.
- Blue Sky Jasper
Blue Sky Jasper is a protective stone that fights of emotional stress to make the person emotionally balanced and independent.
Black Mala Beads
- Smoky Quartz
Smoky Quartz is an intense, stress-busting stone that balances the base chakra to invite peace and harmony during times of turmoil and chaos.
- Black Agarwood Eaglewood
An invigorating meditation bead that calms the mind, Black Agarwood Eaglewood is ideal for those who are hyperactive or insomniacs.
A protective stone that fights off negativity and promotes stability and clarity, Obsidian invites inner strength, emotional balance and personal growth.
- Black Onyx
Symbolic of health, fortune and strength, the Black Onyx stone aids in balancing the energy streams within the body to eliminate grief and encourage self-control.
White & Translucent Mala Beads
This exquisite stone stimulates the third eye chakra to sharpen the memory, instil calmness and positivity, along with opening up the mind to the quest of knowledge and learning.
- Mother of Pearl
Mother of Pearl is a healing stone that invites balance and fights off negativity to make you more creative.
- Clear Quartz
Clear Quartz is a beautiful meditative crystal that cleanses the soul and purifies the mind by fighting off negativity.
Even though pearls are regarded as a fine ornament of luxury, they are a powerful healing stone symbolizing purity, serenity, confidence and joy. Pearl soothes the nervous system and promotes emotional wellbeing.
Brown & Wooden Mala Beads
- Bodhi Seed
Symbolic of the Bodhi Tree where Buddha experienced his awakening, this healing bead symbolizes spirituality, faith and enlightenment.
- Bayong Wood
Bayong Wood provides mental stability, emotional healing and a grounding sense of spirituality.
- Tiger Eye
The Tiger Eye is an intense stone that motivates you to achieve your goals with an increased surge of self-confidence.
- Brown Agate
This stone instills self-confidence and emotional stability to enhance concentration and insightful abilities. It also aids in fighting of bitterness and nurtures relationship with love.
This exquisite reddish-brown meditative bead offers protection against negative energies and promotes emotional healing.
Mala beads are immensely popular amongst the meditation and yoga community, and most yogis are seen wearing these beads for meditative purposes, alongside serving as a reminder of their true intentions. Some people choose crystals, while others choose gemstones, each stone and colour serves a unique purpose of helping the wearer find love, health, luck and fortune, along with dispensing negative energy, stress and anxiety.
The great thing about Mala beads is that the accessory is unique to every wearer, ranging from religious beliefs to being used as a fashion accessory. As a fashion accessory, Mala beads are frequent;y woven into bracelets and worn by people to boho-up their outfit. Some mala bead bracelets are worn for spiritual reasons - like balancing the chakras.
Kinds of Mala Bracelets
Chakra is a Sanskrit word which means 'a wheel or a disk' and it can also refer to the wheels of energy in the body. There are seven (7) major Chakras arranged along the spinal cord; from the bottom to the top, they include the following: Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Nabhi-Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddhi, Ajna, and Sahasrara.
The Chakra Bracelets consist of about 18 or more wooden, resin, or lava beads and they can serve as a unisex fashion accessory as well as a tool for meditation. The polished and beautiful main stones in Chakra bracelets represent the seven chakra: Red (Muladhara), Orange (Svadhishthana), Yellow (Manipura), Green (Anahata), Blue (Vishuddha), Indigo (Ajna), and Violet (Sahasrara).
You can present this beautiful fashion accessory to your loved ones as a holiday gift or use them to amp up your festival outfits.
Think fashion, think Chakra Bracelets!
Elephants are beautiful animals that are as mighty spiritually as they are physically. They are positively oriented which is the main reason elephants represent Ganesha (the God of luck and fortune) to the Hindus. They also represent strength, honor, stability and tenacity.
The elephant bracelets comprise of not only a beautiful elephant charm but also some precious gemstones of different colors, such as Rose Quartz, Jasper, African Turquoise, Unakite, Lapis Lazuli, and also Aqua Amazonite.
These bracelets will go pretty well with elephant clothing if you love these gorgeous animals. They are known to ground and offer strength and conviction to the wearer so they make an excellent gift for spiritual loved ones.
The Buddha, otherwise known as Siddhartha Gautama was born in in a large family called the Shakyas in Lumbini, Rupandehi District of Nepal during the 6th century B.C. His father was the king ruling the tribe that was economically poor and geographically situated on the outskirts, while his mother died within a week of giving birth to him. He went on to become a spiritual leader who inspired the religion of Buddhism.
The Buddha bracelets usually come with a buddha charm or engraved buddha beads. Putting the bracelet on is believed to bring upon spiritual protection and peace to its wearer. Favorite precious stones used for making these bracelets are Amazonite, Amethyst, Tassels, Moss Agate, and Black Onyx, among others.
Every one of these Buddha bracelets are unique in their own way. Team them with a simple tank top and shorts outfit or wear them to your next yoga class, they would add peace to your practice and life.
Owls symbolise feminine energy, wisdom and faith and the connection between them and the moon in the night sky has made owl bracelets the perfect goddess accessory.
The bracelets are very beautiful with elegant owl charms in combination with some beads of Coral, Jasper, Lace Agate, and essential oil infused Lava Rocks as well as Wood.
These beads have been creatively constructed and when in combination with the owl charm, produce a lovely color palette which is a must have for boho lovers. These bracelets, when worn during yoga meditations add confidence, enhance spiritual energy, and keep you close to your center.
Celebrity Bohemian Radar: Styling Cues on Flaunting Mala Beads
Celebrities are also consumed by the spiritual energy and timeless charm of mala beads, and we adore taking styling cues from their cleverly put-together outfits. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite street style looks to help you flaunt your mala beads with your everyday statements.
Keeping it Comfy with Elle Macpherson
Talented Australian beauty, Elle Macpherson, always wears this intricate mala bead necklace, alongside her exquisite sandalwood mala, and we adore how she’s paired it up with her contemporary chic outfit. The mala itself is a rather versatile beauty with thick tassels, French cotton and an earthly shade that can be paired up with any and every color.
We adore how she’s paired it up with a basic white cap-sleeved tee and distressed jeans, accessorized with a bold black leather belt and a tan crossbody bag. Mala beads are always a voguish accessory to play up with your basic tees, and create an outfit that is soulfully bohemian yet edgy and chic.
Effortlessly Chic With Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson was spotted flaunting an effortlessly chic outwear statement with a striking blue mala bead necklace, paired with a white blouse, a gorgeous woolen coat and relaxed denim jeans. This Fall look is perfect for comfy babes who're looking to keep their outfit pretty simple but effrotlessly stylish.
Bohemian Diva with Vanessa Hudgens
Vanessa Hudgens flaunts the most exquisitely handcrafted mala bead necklace with floral maxi dresses and ravishing curve-hugging silhouettes that are fit to attend a party or even a black tie affair. Mala beads look phenomenal with deeply plunging V-necklines and sexy halter-necks as they give your sensual statement the perfect seal of bohemian grace.
Rock n Roll with Sadie Nardini
Sadie’s gorgeous mala bead with that chunky tassel is edgy and mysterious, and she’s given the outfit an infectiously voguish, rock n roll vibe that is bold and oozes out confidence. Black graphic tees are always a great choice to flaunt your mala beads with a sassy attitude.
Vintage Charm with Grace Coddington
Mala beads have a timeless beauty that has always been an obsessive indulgence for the fashion industry, and this gorgeous image of Grace Coddington, a model from the 80s, reveal an intensely charming styling trick to flaunt these beauties.
Romantically feminine blouses with vintage cuffed-sleeves are a great pick to sneak in your mala bead necklaces into an elegant workwear outfit, and you can layer up two necklaces to pull off the raging trend of layering. It’s a divine styling trick, and you simply must flaunt it!
Athleisure Appeal with Elle Macpherson
Here’s another chic streetwear look from Elle Macpherson that gives us some quirky styling lessons to play up comfy athleisure staples with earthly wooden mala beads. The model has created an earthly and seamless color palette, pairing up her comfiest stay-at-home basics and sealing the look with a faded military green blazer.
Evening Soiree with Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson was seen flaunting a delightfully layered up statement of multiple mala bead necklaces with a classic girl-on-the-go look comprising of a basic white slip and high-waist wide leg pants. We adore how she’s layered up her necklaces and bright energy they add to her outfit.
How to Activate Mala Beads to Reap their Spiritual Benefits?
When you bring home a new token of mala beads, it is important to activate these beads so you can enjoy their spiritual and healing benefits. This is how you can activate your mala beads -
Surround yourself with Serenity
The most important step of activating the prayer beads is to surround yourself with an environment that is inviting, peaceful and serene. The right setting is essential for activating your mala beads, because you don’t want to activate them or transfer any kind of energies in an environment that is chaotic and ridden with stress. So, carve out a place that is filled with peaceful silence, and you can feel yourself completely relaxed and calm. Then, begin activating the beads after performing some breathing exercises and allow your mind to drift towards a deep state of calm.
Invigorate them with Touch
It is important to transfer your energies and intentions into the mala beads through the simple act of touching each bead. This is the most common and easiest practice to activate the prayer beads, and while you’re touching them, be focused on your intentions and desires. It is important to not use the pointer finger as it will transfer egotistic vibes and energies. Holding the mala beads next to your heart and focusing on your spiritual intentions and desires is also a great technique. Another prominent technique is to place them between the eyebrows, the location of the third eye, and focus your energies on your desires, wishes and intentions.
Soothe them with your Voice
Verbal stimulation is one of the most essential steps of activating the mala beads, and it requires you to take the beads between your fingers and communicate with them. You must address them and ask them for guidance, companionship and support on your journey towards spiritual ascension. Tell them about your intentions and your quest for strength, love, compassion and spirituality. Just pour your heart out and welcome the peace that washes over you as your mala beads begin to aid your process of spiritual awakening.
Candles & Incense Burning
Charge up your meditative practices with the healing energy of incense and scented candles. It is a very common practice in yogic circles and an excellent method to activate your mala beads. For instance, burning sage can help you cleanse your home and your meditative space free of all impurities and negative energies, while there are many scents, such as lavender, that help you attain positivity and mold your intentions.
Marinate them with your Intentions
The most crucial step to activate your mala beads alongside your traditional mantras is to seal them with your intentions and the desires that fuel your heart as you performed the meditative ritual. These intentions need to be released and soaked into the prayer beads so you can transfer your energies and feel the peace and contentment wash over your mind. Rejoice this calmness and serenity, and allow the beads to remain in your hands for a while, gradually emerging from this moment so the mala beads are fully activated by the time you end the ritual.
The Seven Chakras: Find the Right Mala Beads & Healing Stones for Every Chakras
The significance and benefits of mala beads and healing crystals must be aligned with your spiritual goals, and the chakras or energies that you seek to balance within yourself. We’ve highlighted all the healing stones for the various chakras residing with us so you can chose your pick with greater clarity and precision:
The Root Chakra
The Root Chakra, also known as the Muladhara, is situated at the base of our spine, and traditions across the globe believe it to be the seat of spiritual energy within the body. Awakening this chakra is instrumental for spiritual enlightenment, along with promoting groundedness and inner stability. In order to awaken and balance the Root Chakra, you need to accompany your meditative practices with healing stones, such as the black tourmaline, bloodstone, smoky quartz, black obsidian, hematite and garnet. These stones will help you activate your first chakra, ground your spiritual energy, and feel more emotionally stable.
The Sacral Chakra
The second chakra, also referred to as the Svadhisthana, which loosely translates into sweetness, is tucked in the lower abdomen, right between your pubic bone and belly button. It resonates with our emotional needs and sexual desires, along with representing your innate talents and creativity. Balancing this chakra allows you to balance your relationships, emotions, pains and your pleasures. If your Sacral Chakra isn’t balanced, it can cause you a great deal of distress, and accompanying your meditation with powerful stones, such as the orange carnelian, orange-red agate, tiger eye, orange adventurine, and snowflake obsidian, will help achieve the water-like fluidity to go with the flow.
Solar Plexus Chakra
The third chakra, Manipura, which means a lustrous gem, is situated within the bottom of the rib cage, and it is this chakra that symbolizes our personality and how we perceive everything in our environment. Healing stones such as yellow agate, yellow jasper, citrine and amber can help you become a powerful leader by balancing the issues with self-esteem and power struggles to make you more confident and motivated. Stones like the golden calcite, gold tiger eye, yellow quartz, and golden calcite are also highly recommended to arouse a strong will power and a sense of purpose.
Also known as the Anahata Chakra, it is situated in the center of the chest and it symbolizes a variety of our emotions, including love, compassion, jealousy, respect and other attachments. Balancing this chakra with stones, such as the Rhodonite, green garnet, green tourmaline, green aventurine, rose quartz, lepidolite, and green or white jade can help this chakra from being over-active. Rhodochrosite is another powerful stone that can help you from being overly consumed by emotions of sadness, grief, jealousy and self-hate.
The Throat or Vishuddha Chakra symbolizes harmony, purity and spiritual guidance, and it is referred to as the center of nectar and poison. When the throat chakra is blocked, people find it difficult to communicate their feelings and end up being emotionally isolated. And when it is unbalanced, it can even impair the communicative abilities and turn the person into a senseless chatterbox. Balancing this chakra is essential to balance your need and abilities to communicate. You can balance the Vishuddha chakra with mala beads made from stones such as sodalite, celestite, lapis lazuli, turquoise, blue calcite, blue kyanite, aquamarine and amazonite.
Third Eye Chakra
Ajna, the third eye chakra, which basically means the ability to perceive, is the eye of our intuition and spiritual guidance. When the third-eye chakra is balanced, we suffer from frustration in our meditative practices, difficulty envisioning our dreams and goals, an inability to make well-informed decisions and we lose our sense of clarity. Wearing healing stones, such as amethyst, sugilite, purple tourmaline, purple lepidolite, kunzite, azurite, purple fluorite and charoite can help you attain a strong willpower, along with pursuing your spiritual goals with a harmonious balance between intellect and passion.
The Sahasrara, is symbolic of our cosmic consciousness and spirituality and it loosely translates in to the lotus with thousand petals. It is the doorway for inviting spiritual energy, groundedness and immersing in the energies of the Divine. You can activate and balance this principle chakra with stones, such as the selenite, quartz crystal, pearls, moonstone, white jade, white opal, and white Howlite.
Should You Get A Mala Bracelet?
Pick a Mala bracelet with the right beads and stones that compliment your personality. You would be drawn to the right mala bracelet because of its energy. Picking the right one requires an equal amount of intuition and knowledge about beads.
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May 31, 2019
thank you for this detailed information. I now understand the importance of having multiple mala sets.